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      Compassionate Leadership: The Future of the Spa Industry

      THE GREATEST IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY is not at all what anyone expected. As far as I can tell, there hasn’t really been any long-term impact from COVID-19 on consumer behavior. Although the industry has been greatly hampered by health measures and government restrictions, the indications are that when conditions allow, consumers will quickly return to their normal lifestyle including traveling, visiting spas, and so on.

      The largest impact of COVID-19 appears to be not on the consumers, but on our workforce. While the consumers remain loyal to our industry and are ready to come back, the workforce is not so sure. It has been labeled “the great resignation,” as tranches of the workforce have decided not to return to work.

      I like to think of the “great resignation” as a “great re-prioritization.” During COVID, people were tested. Some were laid off, some were placed on temporary furlough, many had their earnings drastically reduced or their career prospects jeopardized. Virtually everyone had to think about, “could I find another way to make a living?” And it was not only careers that were on the line. Confronted with a potentially fatal virus, people were forced to confront their own mortality. Mortality salience leads people to consider their existence, raising other questions: “Am I doing what is most important to me right now? Am I living the life I have always wanted to live?” Corporate work, which used to be the key to a happier more prosperous life, is now competing with other alternatives. Working for “the man” is optional.

      During COVID-19, people have made big life decisions. They’ve decided to get married or get divorced, to have kids, to buy a pet or pursue a personal passion. They’ve chosen to move closer to family or to move outside of the city. And many have decided to leave their jobs, no longer willing to put up with the stresses of long hours, intolerable bosses, and toilsome commutes. In the “great re-prioritization” the salary and benefits that tied them to this corporate lifestyle no longer measure up.

      So we find ourselves in a position that nobody expected. We thought we would have to convince customers to come back to our businesses when, in fact, it is the workers that need to be convinced. Going forward, the most important skill for the hospitality industry is not expertise in sales or marketing or revenue management, it is compassionate leadership. The businesses that will survive and thrive will be those with leaders who can create a workplace environment that is rewarding and fulfilling, that respects workers’ personal time, and that supports their personal aspirations and ambitions.

      Compassionate leadership is not new. It’s comprised of all the things we know we should be doing but sometimes don’t. Listen more than talk. Hold a long-term perspective. Engage with all stakeholders and hold their humanity sacred. Consider not only the mental and physical wellbeing of your colleagues but their emotional and spiritual well-being as well. None of these ideas are novel, they are just more important now than they have ever been.

      Leadership has always been about creating a compelling vision that inspires and motivates and brings people together to work towards a common goal. But a compassionate leader doesn’t expect everyone to share the same goal. They recognize each member of the team as an individual, they get to know their strengths, their goals, and their dreams. The compassionate leader toils tirelessly, not only on behalf of the corporate mission or the business’s bottom line, but to help each team member fulfill their own dreams and visions.

      Here are some things you can do with your own team to practice compassionate leadership:

      1. Talk to people. Make sure you have quality one-on-one time with each of your employees on a regular basis. You need sufficient time and trust to really dig into deep meaningful topics such as personal goals and significant challenges. These are the kinds of subjects that won’t get covered in a team meeting or in a five minute water cooler conversation.

      2. Help them achieve their goals. Not every employee wants to climb up the corporate ladder. And they may not all be motivated by the financial success of the department. But they might be completely inspired and motivated by you helping them support their family, develop skills for their career (which might be in a different company or industry) or by giving them a schedule that allows them the freedom to pursue their personal passions and activities. If you are helping them to achieve their most important goals, they will help you achieve yours.

      3. Focus on strengths. Most managers spend far too much time trying to fix people’s weaknesses. As a compassionate leader, you can recognize the strengths on your team and help people do more of what they do best. People are happiest and perform at their best when they are using their strengths.

      4. Respect their personal time. In the age of technology, it is more difficult than ever to work in a 24/7 operation. Workers are forced to either use their off time to keep up with work or return to work with a sense of dread in their gut at the pile of unanswered emails and urgent projects that will be waiting for them. As a compassionate leader, you have to find new ways of working that allow people to enjoy their time off, work-free and guilt-free.

      5. Enhance their well-being. Is working for you good for their health? We live in the age of “wellness everywhere,” and worker expectations are rising rapidly. They don’t want to work in an environment that is inherently risky, dangerous, or stressful. Unlike previous generations, workers of today are not willing to compromise their wellbeing for the sake of a job. Consider how you can make your workplace one that elevates wellbeing rather than suppressing it. Is your workplace safe? Is it fun? Do your colleagues have opportunities throughout the day to move their bodies or rest their minds? Employees will happily work hard for you, if working for you helps them to be at their best.

      6. Say “thank you.” Gratitude is one of the most underrated business strategies in the world. It costs virtually nothing, and yet has incredible power to keep your team happy, motivated, engaged and inspired. Tell your people every day what you most appreciate about them.

      From my perspective, the spa industry will continue to be an appealing and meaningful career choice. We provide services that are desperately needed in the modern world, and we provide training, career growth and geographic mobility. We work in a business where we can see the direct impact of our work on every customer who comes through our doors. But employee expectations are changing rapidly, and the leader of tomorrow will need new skills to attract and retain the best talent. The spa industry, by virtue of our work, may even be at an advantage. Our business attracts people who are emotionally intelligent, focused on wellbeing, and sensitive to the needs of others. It is up to us, the compassionate leaders, to rebuild our industry in a way that is better for all our colleagues and to usher in the next era of spa and wellness.

      By Jeremy McCarthy – ISPA February Pulse